ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright had already thrown 4,032 meaningful pitches in 2013 when Red Sox catcher David Ross stepped to the plate in the seventh inning Monday, and Wainwright needed to dig deep for a few more.
With two Red Sox runners on base, one out and the teams knotted at 1 in the game and at two games apiece in the World Series, Wainwright started Ross with a cutter away for a strike. Then a fastball inside for a ball, followed by another cutter away that Ross fouled back, only a few inches to the other side of the netting behind home plate.
Pitch No. 4,036 of his season was Wainwright's signature curveball -- arguably the best right-handed curve in baseball today. It was a few inches more inside than Wainwright would have liked, but it was down, and it had bite.
"That was the first curveball I had thrown him in three at-bats, and it's a pitch I thought I had him set up for," Wainwright said later, the silence surrounding him the best indication of how this particular showdown turned out.
"It didn't throw it exactly where I wanted to, but it's down and Yadi [catcher Yadier Molina] is going to catch that ball just off the clay. I thought I had him set up for that pitch, and he made a good swing."
Ross' good swing produced a go-ahead double down the left-field line, and when Jacoby Ellsbury added an RBI single two batters later, Boston had the margin it needed to beat Wainwright and the Cardinals, 3-1, and take a 3-2 lead in the World Series.
Wainwright, battered in Game 1 and befuddled by a total breakdown of his pitching mechanics, recovered in Game 5 to work seven quality innings, aided by 10 strikeouts (including five hitters in a row in the first and second innings, one shy of a World Series record) and a strong throw home by center fielder Shane Robinson that cut down Ross trying to score on Ellsbury's single.
|4. (tie)||Adam Wainwright||Red Sox||10/28/2013||10|
|4. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Tigers||10/6/1968||10|
|4. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Red Sox||10/12/1967||10|
|4. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Red Sox||10/4/1967||10|
|4. (tie)||Pete Alexander||Yankees||10/3/1926||10|
|9. (tie)||Jeff Weaver||Tigers||10/27/2006||9|
|9. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Yankees||10/15/1964||9|
|9. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Yankees||10/8/1964||9|
|9. (tie)||Paul Derringer||A's||10/1/1931||9|
"After the first game, I knew I could pitch much better than that," Wainwright said. "My delivery was horrible, and I made some great adjustments going into today. I was very confident I was going to pitch a good game.
"To be honest with you, I executed my plan all night long, right there until the end of the seventh inning."
His plan, Wainwright said, included challenging Sox slugger David Ortiz, who finished with three more hits, including a first-inning RBI double with first base unoccupied. Ortiz is hitting .733 in this World Series, a figure you could call "Ruthian" had Babe Ruth ever hit that well in a Fall Classic.
Ortiz hit a cutter in on his hands for the first-inning double, and Wainwright suggested he would throw the same pitch again.
"He's out of his mind hot right now, [but] that was my call before the game; I said, 'I'm not pitching around Ortiz, I'm going to get him out,'" Wainwright said. "He hit a good pitch, made a good swing. … As hot as he is, I believe in my mind that I can get anybody out, and I still believe that."
In the decisive seventh, Wainwright lamented some little things before the big Ross double. Sox third baseman Xander Bogaerts had sparked the rally with a single over the mound that Wainwright believed he should have blocked. Then he walked slumping shortstop Stephen Drew, who entered the day hitting .085 in the World Series and had struck out and flown out in his first two at-bats of Game 5.
Then came the curveball.
"That down-and-in curveball is the pitch I've thrown all year," Wainwright said. "After you've thrown some hard stuff, you get him to look maybe even after a hard fastball in, and that bounced curveball inside looks like a heater off the hand and they can't hit it. [Ross] did. What can you do?
"I wanted to be completely in control of everything today, whether it was my last start or not. I wanted to control my delivery again. When I control my delivery, usually everything falls in line. I stayed in control of my body all night long; it's just that in the seventh inning, they made some good swings."
Ross' swing was the biggest of his career.
"It definitely hasn't sunk in," he said. "There's no way to get too excited, because you know you have we still have -- a lot of work to do. I won't let myself get too excited, because we have a really good team [in the Cardinals] that we still have to beat one more game.
"The signature moment, I think that's what everybody lives for. But I'm kind of just in awe of being in the World Series, really."
Wainwright's World Series could be over, unless he is called upon in relief for Game 7 on two days' rest after throwing 107 pitches Monday.
"I don't live my life with regret and looking back at stuff, but I know I could have made some pitches there to get our team out of the game," Wainwright said. "But we're not out of it. If this was Game 7 and I lost the game, it would be a lot harder to take, but I fully believe that our team can go into Boston and win two games."